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Oregon and Kentucky Primaries; Target: Iran?; John McCain Holds Town Hall Meeting in Miami

Aired May 20, 2008 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning again, everyone. You're informed with CNN.
I'm Tony Harris.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, hello, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, in for Heidi.

HARRIS: Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on Tuesday, the 20th day of May. Here's what's on the rundown.

NGUYEN: Decision day in Kentucky and Oregon. Both Democrats are planning victory celebrations tonight.

HARRIS: Republican John McCain on the attack. This hour he targets Barack Obama on foreign policy. See it live.

NGUYEN: China says the earthquake left 5 million people homeless. President Bush expressing U.S. condolences at China's embassy just a short time ago. And you will see it right here in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And once again, let's take a look at the setting there in Miami. We are waiting for John McCain to begin remarks in what's described as a town hall meeting. He will be making a policy speech, actually, on Cuba.

We are expecting that any moment. And when it begins we will bring it to you live, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

In the meantime, Oregon and Kentucky making their choices today.

CNN's Jim Acosta is with the CNN Election Express in Frankfort, Kentucky, this morning.

Good morning to you, Mr. Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. Not much of a horse race here in Kentucky. Ba-dum-bum. Sorry.

HARRIS: Very nice.

ACOSTA: Hillary Clinton, according to our CNN Poll of Polls, should win this state rather handily today, Tony. Barack Obama should do the same up in Oregon. That race is a little bit tighter, but Senator Obama has a comfortable lead up there. And the voting, we should mention, has already started in Louisville, Kentucky. There are already pictures coming in of voters heading to polls in that city.

But the real action will be on stage tonight at both of these candidates' respective rallies. Barack Obama will be in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that launched him on to the national stage as far as the campaign is concerned. Hillary Clinton will be in Louisville, Kentucky, tonight, celebrating her returns there.

And both of these candidates are engaging in some verbal mathematical gymnastics. And that is because Senator Obama is claiming that tonight he will have a majority of the pledge delegates up to date. That, of course, should not be confused with clinching the nomination. And because of some of that noise coming out of the Obama camp, Senator Clinton, her campaign has sent out a memo saying not so fast, Senator Obama. It's too early to declare victory just yet.

But not to be outdone, she is also making some mathematical claims of her own, saying that she now has the popular vote lead in this race which would, of course, include those votes coming from Florida and Michigan, which is not something that sits well with all Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are a lot of people that wanted to end this election before had you a chance to vote. Well, it may surprise you to learn that I have more votes than my opponent. More people have voted for me to be your president, and I am proud of that. And I sure do want to add a bunch of votes from Kentucky to that total.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, Senator Obama is shrugging off and brushing off much of this rhetoric coming from Senator Clinton. He is instead focusing his attention on John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. And much of what Senator Obama has been talking about with respect to his potential rival coming up here in the general election has to do with foreign policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I respect and honor John McCain's service to our country. He's a genuine war hero. But John McCain has decided to run for George Bush's third term. And we can't afford it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And all three of the candidates in this race, Senator Obama, Clinton, and McCain, are all heading to Florida. As a matter of fact, John McCain is expected to deliver some remarks to some fiercely anti-Castro Cuban-Americans down in south Florida any minute now. Hillary Clinton is of course also heading down there, where she will once again make the case that those disputed delegates in Michigan and in Florida need to be counted, and, of course, in her column, by the way -- Tony.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

Jim Acosta for us this morning.

Jim, good to see you again. Thanks.

NGUYEN: All right. So let's take a look at where things stand right now in the Democratic delegate count.

Barack Obama leads with 1,909. That's a combination of pledged delegates and 297 superdelegates. Hillary Clinton, well, she trails with 1,718 delegates overall. It is unlikely, though, that Obama will reach the 2,026 needed to clinch before the end of the primary season. But he is just 15 away from clinching the majority of pledged delegates.

You'll want to tune in tonight for complete coverage and analysis of the Oregon and Kentucky primaries. Join the best political team on television live from the CNN Election Center. Our coverage kicks off tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: And once again, we are waiting for John McCain. There he is. He's on the stage to begin his comments, a policy speech, foreign policy speech on Cuba. Set to begin at any moment here.

I think we're going to go through the introductions. We'll try to work around that so that we can get right to the comments from John McCain when they begin right here in the NEWSROOM.

More bodies, more anguish in China. Here's the latest. And the numbers -- boy, the numbers are just beginning to run together here.

China's state media is reporting another rise in the death toll today. It now stands at more than 40,000, with nearly 246,000 injured and more than 32,000 missing.

Something positive in all the destruction. Rescuers pulled two more people from the rubble in Sichuan Province. One was buried almost seven days, the other nearly seven and a half days.

China's state council says more than five million people have been left homeless, 280,000 tents have been allocated to survivors, with another 700 -- you see what I'm saying here? The numbers -- with another 700,000 being manufactured. Talking about tents.

Also this morning, a reason to be cautious. Chinese scientists warning of more dangerous aftershocks.

NGUYEN: Well, the president and first lady visiting the Chinese embassy this morning. Here is a look at that. And while there, they signed a condolence book extending sympathy to those who lost family and friends in the quake. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have come to express our country's condolences for those who mourn for their loved ones. Se stand ready to help in any way that the Chinese government would like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: President Bush wrote nearly a full page in the condolence book.

"Not worth the paper it is written on," that is what the White House is saying this morning about a newspaper claim that President Bush wants to attack Iran.

CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry joins us.

All right, Ed. Let's get to the bottom of this.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Betty.

Those are the words of Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, saying the story in "The Jerusalem Post" charging that President Bush is planning to attack Iran before he leaves office is not true. Perino denouncing the story for using unnamed sources and saying, as you noted, "it's not worth the paper it's written on."

The story basically charges that an Israeli official is telling this newspaper that an unnamed Bush administration official during the president's recent trip to the Mideast said that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are of the opinion that a military option in Iran is called for, but that basically the Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are holding the president and vice president back.

This newspaper claiming that the president at one point in a closed meeting in Israel said, "The disease must be treated, not its symptoms" in talking about Iran. Dana Perino putting out a written statement this morning saying, "As the president has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard."

Of course, the question remains, though, that is essentially the stance that the White House had in the run-up to the war in Iraq. And that's why it's an issue of credibility.

Now as they talk about this with Iran and insist that they do not plan to attack Iran, as this story surfaces, it certainly it raises questions about what the president's real intentions are with Iran. But the White House is insisting that this story is completely untrue -- Betty.

NGUYEN: All right. So as you talk about credibility, what do we know about the paper since the White House is denying the report?

HENRY: Well, obviously "The Jerusalem Post" is a well-known media institution. This is not a new newspaper.

Their reporting has been cited by many people over the years. Certainly can't sit here and defend every story they have ever written. And I personally was on that trip to the Mideast and I can tell you that CNN picked up no such information from our various sources that would suggest that this story is true.

And the White House is correct in saying that this is not just one unnamed source, but it's an unnamed Israeli source saying that an unnamed Bush administration source said this about the president and vice president. If you work through that, that's a couple of degrees of separation and it's extremely hard to prove or disprove -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, with all those unnamed sources.

Ed Henry, we will name, and we do appreciate it. Thank you.

HENRY: Thanks, Betty.

HARRIS: Stay indoors. That is the message in south Florida today. Smoke and fog advisories are in effect as a wildfire spreads across almost 40,000 acres of the Everglades.

Inmates have been moved from a nearby state facility -- state prison and federal detention center. The fire is also in the only known habitat for an endangered sparrow. The birds said to be OK so far. The fire is about one-third contained.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Passengers, they have had it up to their tray tables. Failing grades for airlines, where these airlines rank, I should say, in customer satisfaction. It's almost a mouthful because it's not good.

HARRIS: Yes.

And John McCain any moment now beginning his remarks in Miami. A policy speech, a foreign policy speech. He is talking about Cuba this morning. When those remarks begin we will bring them to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And once again, the Republican presidential nominee in waiting in Miami this morning to make a policy speech on Cuba. When it begins we will bring it to you live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, to get your daily health news online, we want to tell you that you can log on to our Web site where you can find the latest medical information. And we will get that to you in just a moment. I'm being told right now we want to take you right back to Miami and Senator John McCain, who is going to be speaking very shortly. Of course, as we've been mentioning, this is a town hall meeting in Miami, Florida. And on the agenda today is a policy speech dealing with Cuba.

Also want to let you know that John McCain has been campaigning in Florida with the support of Governor Charlie Crist, whose name has been floated around as a possible running mate for the Arizona senator. Not sure if he's going to speak on that today. But of course we will be listening very closely.

All right. Let's get to this story for you now, because when it comes to counting votes and delegates, you better bring your calculator, because it does get very complicated.

Here's CNN's Bill Schneider, part of the best political team on television.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Barack Obama makes this claim...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Kentucky and Oregon go as we hope, then we think we will have a majority of pledged delegates at that point. And that's a pretty significant mark.

SCHNEIDER: Obama is counting pledged delegates, the ones selected by voters in primaries and caucuses. A majority of pledged delegates would be 1,627. How many pledged delegates does Obama have right now? 1,612.

A hundred and three pledged delegates are at stake in Oregon and Kentucky on Tuesday. Obama needs only 15 more to back up his claim. That is likely.

Actually, you need 2,026 total delegates, pledged and superdelegates, to win the Democratic nomination. Obama now has 1,904. To go over the top, Obama would need to take nearly all the delegates on Tuesday. That is unlikely.

The Clinton campaign raises the bar to 2,210 delegates for a majority, including delegates from Florida and Michigan. Clinton is making this argument...

CLINTON: And right now I am leading in the popular vote. More Americans have voted for me.

SCHNEIDER: Obama leads in the total primary and caucus vote. Suppose we include Florida and Michigan voters and don't give Obama a single vote in Michigan since he took his name off the Michigan ballot. Obama still leads narrowly in total votes.

Some Clinton supporters argue that caucus voters should not be included. Turnout is much lower in caucus states, there's no secret ballot, and some caucus states don't even report vote totals.

What happens if you exclude caucus voters, include Florida and Michigan voters, and don't give Obama any votes in Michigan? Then, and only then, does Clinton move into the lead in popular votes.

(on camera): Clinton says the superdelegates should pay attention to the popular vote, counted the way she prefers. Obama says the superdelegates should pay attention to the pledged delegates since they were chosen by the voters according to the rules. Party rules say all delegates should vote their conscience as long as they fairly reflect what the voters have said in the primaries and caucuses.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: And let's keep you on the campaign trail down in Miami, where Senator John McCain is speaking at this hour.

Let's take a listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm pleased to work with him on many issues.

I notice my friend Ana Navarro is here today.

Ana, thank you for all you do.

(APPLAUSE)

And thank you for your friendship and your support not only of the freedom and independence of people of Cuba, but democracy throughout the entire region. And we have a lot of work to do, as we know.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, today, on Cuba's independence day, we have occasion to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions of the Cuban people. Cuban-Americans, many of whom have ascended to the heights of business, government, and the arts, have enriched and enlivened our country. And in states across America, they bring to our communities their custom of hard work and personal initiative.

And for many of these patriotic individuals, while they live and work here in the United States, a bit of Cuba will always endure in their hearts. So it must be for all Americans who cherish those freedoms we so often take for granted at home, for today is not a cause for celebration alone.

Those inspired freedom fighters who secured Cuba's independence over 100 years ago could hardly know that their descendants would be engaged in a struggle for freedom and democracy a century later. And yet, today, the Cuban people continue to live under tyranny and their struggle goes on.

It is not a fruitless struggle, not by any means. One day, one day America will again have warm relations with the Cuban government that represents the sovereign will of the people, one that respects their fundamental human and political rights. That will happen.

(APPLAUSE)

One day, Cuba will be an important ally in advancing democracy throughout our hemisphere. Make no mistake, Cuba is destined to be free. Cuba is destined to be free.

(APPLAUSE)

Today, as so many of you know too well, the situation is very different. Fidel Castro has passed the titles of power to his brother in a fashion suited more for a personal thiefdom than to a government purporting to represent that proud and dynamic people.

A few recent news articles have labeled reforms, a smattering of small changes that have taken place since Raul Castro has formally taken charge. Such characterizations must sound quite cynical to the political prisoners that fill Cuban jails, to the millions who suffer under poverty and repression and to all those who wish to choose their leaders not suffer under them.

(APPLAUSE)

The Castro regime enforces strict limits against freedom of expression, of association, of assembly of movement, of speech. You all know that last year, as many as 5,000 citizens served sentences for the vague crime of dangerousness. Yet, tyranny will not forever endure, and as president, I will not passively await the day when the Cuban people enjoy the blessings and freedom and democracy.

I will not wait. It is in our national interest.

(APPLAUSE)

It is in our national interest to support their aspirations and oppose those of the Cuban regime. The Castro regime, one that harbors fugitives from U.S. justice, expresses unrelenting hostility to America, and shoots down unarmed civilian aircraft.

I wish the other presidential candidates felt similarly.

Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba. When he was asked in a questionnaire about his policy towards Cuba, he answered, and I quote, "I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more Democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene."

An interesting perspective on Cuba.

Now Senator Obama shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. An unconditional meeting with Raul Castro.

These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators. There is no need to undertake fundamental reforms. They can simply wait for a unilateral change in U.S. policy. That's what they think.

I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people. Not to the Castro regime. My administration will press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally.

(APPLAUSE)

To legalize all political parties, labor unions, and free media, and to hold internationally monitored elections.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

The embargo must stay in place until these basic elements of Democratic society are met. Maintaining the embargo is, however, just one element of a broader approach my administration would make to the people of Cuba.

I would provide more material assistance and moral support to the courageous human rights activists who bravely defy the regime every day, and increase radio and TV (INAUDIBLE), and other means to communicate directly with the Cuban people.

(APPLAUSE)

My Justice Department would vigorously prosecute Cuban officials implicated in the murder of Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

Implicated in the murder of Americans, drug trafficking, and other crimes.

While our Cuba policy will not always be in accord with that of our hemispheric and European partners, my administration will begin an active dialogue with them to develop a plan for post-Castro Cuba. A plan that will spark rapid change and a new awakening in that country.

The Cuban people have waited long enough!

(APPLAUSE)

And as we work with our hemispheric partners, we must be clear about the kind of leadership America seeks to provide. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the United States has treated Latin America as a junior partner rather than as a neighbor. Like a little brother rather than as an equal. As a senator representing a state that borders Mexico, I am acutely aware of the extraordinary contributions that our neighbors make to the United States, from trade to culture, to a commitment to democracy and human rights. Latin America today is increasingly vital to the fortunes of the United States, and Americans north and south share a common geography and a common destiny.

It's time to embrace this destiny for the benefit of all of our peoples.

(APPLAUSE)

We made progress towards this vision by expanding the benefits of free commerce through NAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and our free trade agreements with Peru and Chile. But the progress has stalled.

Our longstanding bipartisan commitment to hemispheric prosperity is crumbling. We see this most vividly in Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia. Their opposition to the Colombia free trade agreement, the failure of the Congress to take up and approve this agreement is a reminder why 80 percent of Americans think this country's on the wrong track.

(APPLAUSE)

You know that congress can find time to pass a pork-laden farm bill, but it can't stir itself to support a key ally and further American prosperity. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement would benefit American workers and consumers. The U.S. International Trade Administration estimates over $1 billion in tariffs have been imposed on United States exports to Colombia since the FTA was signed. Tariffs that would be eliminated once the agreement takes effect.

Here in Florida, trade is created new markets for the sunshine state's world class produce, manufactured goods and professional services. Florida's exports to China and Mexico rose by some 208 percent since NAFTA was enacted. And it's exports to Chile grew 99 percent in the first four years of it's free trade agreement. Colombia today, stands as Florida's fifth largest export market. Florida exported $2.1 billion worth of goods there last year. And now the Colombians are offering to drop their barriers to American goods.

Yet Senator Obama and Senator Clinton oppose the agreement. Wishing to retreat behind protectionists walls and undermine a key hemispheric ally. The strategic implications of rejecting this agreement are profound. Colombia is a beacon of hope in a region where the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, and others...

(APPLAUSE)

... there was a beacon of hope and freedom where the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, and others are actively seeking to thwart economic progress and democracy. Delaying approval of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement will not create one American job or start one American business. But it will divide us from our Colombian partners at a time when they are battling to thwart terrorists and their allied drug cartels. It will undercut America's standing with our allies and critical region and across the world at a moment when rebuilding these relationships has never been more important.

It will set back the goal of deepening relation was our neighbors to the south. And enhancing the stability, peace, and prosperity of our hemisphere. If I am elected president, the United States will not bow to the special interests seeking to block progress.

(APPLAUSE)

Instead, we will go forward and forge a new policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean basis. One founded on peace and security and shared prosperity, democracy and freedom and mutual respect. We will work to prevent Venezuela and Bolivia from taking the same road to failure Castro paved for Cuba.

(APPLAUSE)

And we will broaden and strengthen ties with key states like Brazil, Peru and Chile. We will make clear to all countries in the region, that if they share our values of freedom and openness, they can count on us as a friend.

(APPLAUSE)

We will not abandon our partners to demagogues, drug lords and despair. But expand the benefits of security, trade and prosperity to all. My vision embodies the interests and the values of America, and seeks the betterment of all people everywhere in our hemisphere. And it is a vision that includes the people of Cuba.

(APPLAUSE)

Courageous men found their calling at the beginning of the last century and winning for Cuba its independence. And those brave men and women who stand up for their rights today, will one day soon win for Cuba its freedom. When they do, they will enjoy not only the fruits of their own liberation, but also the firm and vast friendship of all Americans who have stood with them throughout the years of struggle.

(APPLAUSE)

On this Cuban independence day, let us take a moment to pray that Cubans everywhere can one day soon enjoy the liberty for which their forefathers fought. And remember them, always. Thank you very much. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

NGUYEN: And there you have it, Senator John McCain speaking live today, in Miami. Dealing with policy on Cuba. He also took aim at Senator Barack Obama in dealing with Obama's stand on meeting with Raul Castro for a presidential meeting. He also took aim at both Obama and Clinton's stand on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. And of course we're going to go in depth on some of these issues in just a moment -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well we just heard what John McCain had to say, speaking in Miami for Cuban independence day, taking shots at Democratic rival Barack Obama. as Betty just mentioned.

Joining us now from Washington is Denis McDonough. He is senior foreign policy adviser for the Obama campaign.

Dennis, you are smiling. I know you're chomping at the bit here. Let's fire a couple of questions at you. On and foreign policy question, It is clear -- it has been for a while now, that Senator McCain is going to attack your man as inexperienced, not to be trusted. What's your counter?

DENIS MCDONOUGH, OBAMA CAMPAIGN, SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Tony, thanks a lot for having me on the show today. You know, I just listened as closely as I could to try to hear John McCain say something that he would do differently than George Bush has done for the last eight years. In fact, I listened very closely to him yesterday when he equated the threat from Iran with the threat from the Soviet Union, to hear exactly what he would do. Now --

HARRIS: Well Denis, is that your counter? Is that the counter?

MCDONOUGH: I didn't hear anything different Tony, from what he would do from George Bush. And we've see the impact of that not only in Cuba, not only in Iran, but around the world. We're at a situation now where our standing in the world is at a level not seen in a long time. We see countries like Iran dramatically expanding their influence and a vitally important --

HARRIS: Well Denis, if I can cut through it just a bit, is the idea if you and the electorate like what you've been getting from the George Bush campaign, George Bush presidency, then continue and vote for the McCain campaign to be the next president, is that essentially the argument?

MCDONOUGH: Tony, I think you've hit the nail on the head. And I think John McCain hit the nail on the head with his speech today. Again, in several paragraphs of this statement which he just gave, I was not able to discern a single thing he would do differently towards the region, towards Cuba, than George Bush has done. And it's been 50 years Tony, since we've seen the Castro regime come to power. And we've seen absolutely no change and the people who pay for that are the Cuban people.

HARRIS: Denis, but allow me -- there still needs to be an affirmative message from your candidate. And let me give you an opportunity to make that based on what John McCain is saying. He is saying your man is too young, unprepared, not smart enough it seems to me, not John McCain's words, mine here, to sit down and negotiate with world leaders. He is not to be trusted. I've got to tell you if I'm John McCain, I am giving that message and speaking it to anyone that will listen to me.

MCDONOUGH: He is because he doesn't have a record of his own to run on, Tony. So you're absolutely right that what he'll do is divert and distort and try to change the subject from the policy that he supported from this administration.

Here's what Barak Obama will do: He'll change how business is done in Washington. He will bring the sound judgment that he's demonstrated throughout the course of this campaign and throughout the course of this -- his time in the Senate. When he opposed the war in Iraq, right from the beginning. When he's outlined a robust policy to get the Iranians to stand down on their nuclear program, to stop their support for Hamas and Hezbollah. And where he's outlined a very affirmative policy towards Cuba, for example. Where he said family members in the United States can send money to their suffering family on the island. They can go visit their family. At the moment, under the Bush/McCain policy, families in this country, Cuban-Americans in this country who have family on the island have to decide if they get to go home to visit their parents for their birthdays or for their funerals. They can only travel once a year and Barack Obama will change that.

HARRIS: Is that what we're getting at here when Barak Obama says he would ease, but not end the embargo?

MCDONOUGH: Barack Obama said very clearly what he'll do is he'll allow unlimited family travel to the island. So somebody in Miami today, who's worried about his grandma down in Havana, can get down there to see his grandmother.

HARRIS: Great. Great, great, great.

MCDONOUGH: Somebody who's there who is worried about his child...

HARRIS: Now Denis, I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. And I want to get to a couple of other points here. Is Barack Obama in favor of a condition-less sit-down with Raul Castro as was suggested strongly by John McCain?

MCDONOUGH: You know, this is -- you know, about day 10 of the distortion on that policy, Tony. And in fact, what Barack Obama has said is that he will lift restrictions on family travel. Lift restrictions on family sending money to their parents, their grandparents and their children on the island. And he's also said that he is open to using diplomacy, including meeting without precondition, after adequate preparation, after working this issue so that we can press the Cubans on free elections. On releasing political prisoners like Dr. Baschet, who happens to be the Cuban Mandela, who is still suffering under arrest.

HARRIS: And, Denis, let me get one more in here.

MCDONOUGH: Yes, sir.

HARRIS: Your man was called a protectionist by John McCain. He was suggesting we need Colombia as an ally. We need Colombia as a brace against Chavez in that region. We need Uribe and Colombia. We need the free trade agreement and your man is too experienced to recognize that.

HARRIS: Well, I think what Barack has experienced in is recognizing a bad deal when he sees one. So what he said is very clear, which is that we have an opportunity at the moment, to use this free trade agreement to press the Colombians to address a very difficult problem in that country. That is political violence, particularly violence against labor leaders.

Look, what we're interested in, in the course of these free trade agreements is: Establishing a middle class in those countries that will buy our goods, that will buy Florida's goods, that will buy Minnesota's goods. And the idea here is that we will use this free trade agreement to get the Colombians to take concrete steps to stop violence against labor leaders.

HARRIS: Yes.

MCDONOUGH: That's exactly what Barack Obama is doing. That's a fundamental change from this administration, Tony. And that's not what John McCain is bringing to the table. He's bringing you four more years of George Bush.

HARRIS: Well, Denis, you know, no disrespect to you. We enjoyed having you on the program, but we want to hear from your guy.

And we will later this afternoon, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the "SITUATION ROOM."

But, Denis, it was good to have you on.

MCDONOUGH: I can't blame you one bit, Tony. He's the best there is. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Thanks, appreciate it.

NGUYEN: Well it is primary battle day in Oregon. And we're going to take you there live to see Oregon's unique process.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, Oregon and Kentucky, they are holding their primaries today. And people in Portland, well they turned out for Barack Obama in droves over the weekend. Have you seen the video? Well we're going to show you some in just a minute.

Jeff Mates is the senior political writer for the "Oregonian" newspaper. He's in Portland, this morning.

And as we pull up the video, Jeff, I just want to bring to your attention, as you well know, I mean look at this: Some 72,000 people rallied for Obama over the weekend.

What is it about his campaign that is resonating with the people of Oregon?

JEFF MATES, "OREGONIAN" SR. POLITICAL WRITER: Well you know, Oregon is an interesting state. You know, we've always been the end of the Oregon Trail. A lot of people come here for the lifestyle, for the quality of life and you know, there's something about Barack Obama who really speaks to people. You know, these are people willing to make big change and hey, what is it that he's talking about?

NGUYEN: Well, what is it? Is it the economy? Is it health care? Is it foreign policy? What is it?

MATES: You know, I think it's a lot of things. You know, it is all those things wrapped in. I think certainly there is a very strong change or desire for change in the Portland area, from the Bush administration. Oregon was one of the first states to kind of sour on the Bush administration. Opposition of the war has always been strong here. Portland is a very liberal city. Now you know, the entire state is not the same. And Portland itself is a pretty liberal place.

NGUYEN: So do the demographics sway in his favor?

MATES: Yes. I think that is definitely the feeling here. He's expected to win the primary today by a pretty good amount. Democrats here particularly in the Portland area, which is a big part of the Democratic base in this state, are generally pretty well educated. You know, pretty economically well off in -- many of them are. Many of them are also young. The city attract as lot of young, college educated people. And that's also a strong support base.

NGUYEN: So far in the CNN poll of polls, he has about a 10-point lead over Clinton. What has been her biggest uphill battle there in Oregon?

MATES: Well you know, part of it, it's kind of interesting. Oregon is a unique state in that we vote entirely by mail. And the Obama campaign was quicker to get organized here. And that is a big advantage in a vote-by-mail state. You know, essentially you have a 2 1/2-week long election day. And it really is to your benefit to have troops on the ground, a very strong grassroots army. And I think they did a better job of that than the Clinton campaign.

NGUYEN: But isn't she faring well with some of the older voters as well as female voters?

MATES: Yes. I think she is faring well with older voters. She does pretty well with women voters, of course as she's done in other states. They've worked very also in the rural areas of the state and the smaller cities. Seeing that as a place where they can win a lot of votes, too.

NGUYEN: And when it comes to the issue, if we can name one, what would that be for Oregon?

MATES: Well you know, the thing that is perhaps a little different than everywhere else, that people talk about, is the very strong concern about environmental issues. I think that's very strong among the Democratic electorate in the state. I have to say though, that, you know, every time I hear the candidates speak, a huge applause when they talk about ending the war. You know, it's amazing. Almost anything that they start hitting the Bush administration on is a guaranteed applause line among Democrats in the state.

NGUYEN: Well you know, at the same time Jeff, your paper endorsed both Obama and Senator John McCain. How with well is John McCain faring in Oregon.

MATES: Well, really too early to say. There's no real Republican primary and he has not really gotten his campaign up and going here. So it's a little early to say. But McCain's campaign does feel that this a target of opportunity here. That he is a more different kind of Republican than a lot of the ones in recent years. And Oregon has a long tradition of having more moderate buck the party Republicans. Tom McCall was famous in the 1970s, of course back in Washington D.C., you're very familiar with Mark Hatfield who was a powerful senator there for many years.

NGUYEN: All right, so quickly, the headline in tomorrow's paper, your paper?

MAPES: Well, once again, the expectation is that we are going to be the main candle on Obama's cake tomorrow. You know, they're talking about declaring a victory of sorts and getting majority of the pledge delegates. Wouldn't look good if he does not do well in Oregon.

NGUYEN: Yes, he is expected to win there, as well as Clinton expected to win in Kentucky. So we'll see how it shakes out.

Jeff Mapes, senior political writer for "The Oregonian." Thanks for joining us today.

MAPES: Thank you.

HARRIS: You know, They're calling it "Operation Tele-Phoney." The government hangs up on several shady sellers. A live report in the NEWSROOM.

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NGUYEN: Welcome back, everybody, on this Tuesday. I'm Betty Nguyen. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. You know what, they just will not stop. We're talking about gas prices. They have jumped to a new record yet again. That Memorial Day holiday drive is getting more expensive by the minute, and it's "ISSUE #1" at the top of the hour.

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HARRIS: You know, when you pick up the phone, could you be bilked out of cash? Well, the feds said half a million of you were. They are announcing a huge telemarketing crackdown.

CNN's Atia Abawi has details from Washington. It's about time.

Atia, Good morning.

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. Well, they're calling it Operation Tele-Phony. Pretty much the Federal Trade Commission and 30 government agencies in both the United States and Canada coordinating efforts to crackdown on telemarketing scams. What are some of these scams? You have advanced-fee loans, credit card scams, prizes and vacations that are just too good to be true. They announced an initiative today called "Who is Calling," basically encouraging citizens to ask basic questions when they get the calls. What's your name? What's your license number? Where are you located?

We have the state attorney general from Idaho, Lawrence Wasden, who has this to say.

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LAWRENCE WASDEN, IDAHO ATTY. GEN.: There's an easy and surefire way to avoid getting stung by a telephone fraud offer -- just say no and hang up. It isn't rude; it is smart. Getting on the do not call list is another smart step. If you are already on the list and you still get you wanted sales calls, do this -- first, assume the caller is a crook. Second, say no, thank you. Third, hang up.

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ABAWI: All right, Tony, well, the best thing that you can do is just be aware of offers that are just too good to be true.

HARRIS: I like that. The other thing I like is just no and hang up. That's a concept I can understand.

Atia, great to see you. Thank you.

ABAWI: Thank you, Tony.

NGUYEN: Yes, but you've got to tell them, you're a crook first. You're a crook, no and then hang up -- that's the order.

All right, on to this -- Oregon, Kentucky, it is your day to decide. Both Obama and Clinton laying claim to numerical milestones today. So, does the math add up?

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